Hospitality for Busy Families

One of the most countercultural things you can do as a Christian is to invite someone over for dinner. New York Times bestselling author Karen Ehman encourages listeners on The Focus of the Family podcast to develop a habit of opening up your home as a way to connect to your local community.
Hospitality is not entertaining
There can be a number of reasons we don’t invite people around to our homes. Karen Ehman, author of “Reach Out, Gather In” suggests it’s not just busyness that hinders the average Christian from opening their homes to others, but it can also be the pressure we can internalise around what hospitality is to look like that paralyses us from doing anything.
Comparisons and pride can prevent us from opening up our home to others. Karen points to TV and social media that can hold luxury dining as a standard for hospitality. She says of social media accounts that can give ideas of meal ideas, and food presentation,
“They are great to use as a resource but not to replicate as a lifestyle.”
Karen warns against the trap of becoming paraylsed and not inviting anyone over to your home because you can’t replicate the hospitality that is depicted in the media. Karen says pulling out all the stops is entertaining whereas true hospitality is focusing on your visitors and not on the décor.
Remember what it is like to be a guest
To help prepare for having people over to your house, Karen suggests reflecting on your own experiences of being a guest in someone’s home. When have you felt the most loved and welcomed when you have gone over someone’s home? How did the hosts make you feel? Karen notes,
“It’s helpful to think about what’s important to us when we were a guest in someone’s home and then translate that when we are preparing to have someone over.”
Karen recalls her first real encounter with hospitality which changed the course of her life. As a latchkey child to a single mother, Karen spent many of her teenage years quite lonely and disconnected from others. When she was 16, the pastor’s wife of the small church down the road from where Karen lived, invited her to be part of the church’s softball team. She soon caught up regularly with the pastor’s wife at her home and became part of her life. Karen reflects,
“It was through her that I learned of a God that could be a father to the fatherless.”
Developing healthy priorities around hospitality
Karen cautions listeners to not fall into one of two extremes when it comes to approaching hospitality. Some Christians can prioritise their family as their only ministry and not invite anyone over to their home. Another extreme to avoid, which Karen initially fell into, is pulling all the stops for people when showing hospitality and not taking your family on the journey. Karen says,
“I adopted the rule that if I was going to make something for someone else, I would make it for my family as well.”
Karen suggests that if you are just starting out, it’s best to start practicing hospitality with people you know well and you get along with, but to not stop there. To fulfill the Bible’s exhortation to followers of Jesus to embrace the outsider and to show hospitality to strangers, Karen suggests prayerfully considering catching up with people who your life naturally intersects with. She suggests asking God,
“Is there somebody who we could reach out to, who we could open our homes to that maybe has never been inside the home of a Christian, who maybe has never felt that they are wanted, welcomed and loved.”
Gradually you’ll find yourself inviting people over to your home who you may not agree with politically or who lead a different lifestyle to you as this can open doors to sharing your faith with others.
To listen more to Karen Ehman on hospitality for busy families, download the podcast here.
About Karen Ehman
Karen Ehman is a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and New York Times bestselling author. Described as profoundly practical, engagingly funny, and downright real, her passion is to help women to live their priorities and love their lives as they serve God and others.